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If you have had lymph nodes removed surgically in either the groin or the axilla, or if you have been treated with radiation therapy, it is important that you protect from injury the limb closest to the treatment site. Follow the suggestions below to help avoid developing lymphedema:

  • Wear gloves while doing housework, gardening, or other types of work that can result in even minor injuries. A lesion in the skin will allow infectious bacteria to enter the tissue.
  • Never allow an injection or blood draw in the affected extremity.  Injections or blood draws will pierce the skin, providing an entry for infection.
  • Have blood pressure checked in the unaffected extremity.  The inflated blood pressure cuff further limits lymphatic circulation and can collapse lymphatic vessels, permanently damaging the affected limb.  If both limbs are involved, the blood pressure can be taken from the leg.
  • Avoid heavy lifting with the affected arm. Do not carry heavy handbags with over the shoulder straps.  Lifting puts strain on the arm with poor circulation.
  • Avoid vigorous repetitive movements against resistance with the affected arm or leg (rubbing, scrubbing, pushing, or pulling). Physical exertion causes sudden, rapid blood flow though the muscle and tissue, further damaging an already compromised system.
  • Elevate the affected arm(s) or leg(s) whenever possible. This will help improve circulation in the affected area.
  • Consult your therapist about any sports activities in which you participate, because some may aggravate the condition. However, swimming, biking, walking, and specially designed ballet or yoga classes are encouraged.  Physical exertion forces the damaged lymphatic system to try to do work it cannot do.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes (over 90 degrees or below zero), such as hot tubs, saunas, or sunbathing.  At all times, keep the limb protected from the sun.  Heat increases blood flow through the tissue. Sudden temperature changes cause undue stress on the weakened system.
  • Maintain good hygiene by keeping skin clean and dry with hypoallergenic soap and deodorant. This will protect the skin from irritation and possible infection. To view our skin care products, please click here.
  • Use an electric razor rather than a safety razor.  An electric razor will prevent puncturing the skin and subsequent infection.
  • Do not wear tight jewelry or elastic bands around the affected fingers, arms, or legs.  Constricting items will worsen an already-compromised circulatory system.
  • Avoid cutting cuticles when manicuring hands and pedicuring feet. Any skin puncture risks introducing infection
  • Maintain your ideal weight through a well-balanced, low salt diet; avoid smoking and alcoholic beverages. Unwanted weight gain will increase swelling in the limbs.
  • Make sure you keep your skin clean and dry to avoid the risk of an infection entering the affected area.
  • Make sure that your compression garments fit well, support the at-risk limb for strenuous activity, and wear a well fitted garment during air travel.